Thank you so much for hosting me on your blog – and a huge thank you for the fabulous questions. I’m utterly delighted. I’ve really enjoyed writing Moonflight and am thrilled to share it widely.
Very best wishes and hope you have many reading adventures this year.
Can you tell us a little about Moonflight?
Moonflight is a story about a timid rat named Tilbury Twitch-Whiskers. He is the seventh-born rat of a seventh-born litter and that marks him out as a rat in want of adventure. However, it is well known that a rat in want of adventure does not last very long in the world, and so Tilbury’s mother forbids him from leaving their home in the chandlery at Tilbury Docks. But dark forces are rising, and the Dockland Rats must seek the chosen one of a prophecy to return a black diamond, known as the Cursed Night, across the high seas to its rightful owner. Not everyone wants to see the diamond leave London, and Tilbury must dig deep to see if he is brave enough to venture across the seas, where peril and danger await. If he survives the White Death and the Immortal Emperor, can he traverse the Sky Mountains to the City in the Clouds? And indeed, who can he trust along the way? For the power of the diamond casts its evil curse far and wide.
Where did the inspiration for this adventure come from?
The idea for this story came during lockdown. I wanted freedom to travel. I wanted to escape, and the only place I could do this was to turn towards the infinite possibilities of the imagination. I became interested in the debate around cultural treasures and artifacts, especially jewels ‘acquired’ during British colonial times, and the stories told about them. The British stories often portray items acquired through legal means, whereas other countries tell a tale of power imbalances, lies, deception, looting and bloodshed.
The 1983 Heritage Act prevents museums from disposing of objects from their collections, but there are calls for this to be amended to allow the return of many items. I wanted Tilbury’s adventure to raise questions about to whom do some of the Crown Jewels’ most valuable gemstones belong to.
Did you always want to weave a curse into the adventure? How does that alter the journey of the characters?
Moonflight is a story about stories. It is about the narratives we weave around ourselves, the stories we choose to believe and the stories we choose to ignore and turn a blind eye to. The black diamond in the story is named the Cursed Night. The curse itself is a story, that has been passed down through generations. It is one of doom and fear, and it is said that to look deep into the diamond is to see into the darkest reaches of your soul. The curse is a story of power, of bloodshed, of lies and deception, and only one rat of integrity and ingenuity can unravel the stories beneath the curse, find the truth and return the diamond to its rightful owner.
The cast of characters is brilliant- as an author, did you hear their voices and their stories loud and clear?
Thank you – yes, I do see them and hear their voices loud and clear. I see my stories like a 3D movie. I recently tried the Virtual Reality headsets, and I was astounded because it was like stepping into my head of stories. When I create a story, I am there, in 3D, visualising the scene, walking around it, or following an alleyway unsure of what I’ll find. I see Tilbury looking back at me wondering if he should go forward. One idea fires the next and the next. The hardest part is writing it down. I’m a slow writer and totally understand when children say they get bored writing. It’s hard to translate what you see in your head into words. But until there is a way of downloading the imagination by bypassing the fingers on the keyboard, I guess I’ll have to keep writing. And of course, seeing words in print that upload your imagination into someone else’s brain is surreal, wonderful and magical.
Were any of the characters based on people in real life?
Many of the characters are combinations of people I know. Tilbury’s Ma worries and frets about her children leaving home, and I definitely identify with that. I loved creating the Elders. They are rats who live in the Tower of London, who are revered and respected, and yet they have potential to abuse their power when they are not sleeping or guzzling fine food from Harrods. They are loosely based on members of the House of Lords, and Marfaire, an Elder of great wisdom, is loosely based on Jenny Jones, a Green peer. Tilbury’s argumentative, but family orientated, aunts, uncles and cousins could easily be cast in rat version of Eastenders, and indeed beer-swigging, gossip-mongering Erik is the excellent landlord of his own alehouse in the world of Dockland Rats. As for the sea shanty singing ship rats – well I do belong to a sea shanty group and I sing sea shanties very badly, like the ship rats!
Will there be more to come from Tilbury or will we perhaps learn about Nimble-Quick and her travels?
Not immediately, though I would love to adventure into their world again. Indeed, I think a story would naturally follow Nimble-Quick. I did enjoy the freedom of creating a new world where anything could happen and being released from highly detailed fact-finding research.